Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Grab My Heart #32

TITLE: Strange Occurrences
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Spooky just wants to lay low and get through a program for delinquents. But boot camp exceeds her worst expectations when an ancient god emerges from the wilderness and kidnaps her for entertainment. She strikes a deal for her freedom that either kill her or deliver everything she’s ever wanted.

Something brushed Spooky’s elbow. Luke slipped a piece of paper into the palm of her hand.
A note. A passed note, like the ones she’d shuttered back and forth between two friends in her freshman year English class.

It was old school, but she couldn’t help but smile. The camp confiscated personal devices and restricted the use of pens, so this was the first message she’d received all summer. Luke would have had to think ahead about giving her this. She wanted to read his face as much as the words he had put on paper, but she kept her eyes trained on the front of the cafeteria.

“And that’s our inspirational quote for this evening!" Izeah Dodgson said into the mic. His bald head was as shiny as the lacquered wood floors that Spooky herself polished twice a week. "Now, I have one more announcement, and I don’t want anyone to be alarmed: last night's patrol came across an animal inside the fence. It was not definitively identified, but it was large enough to cause some concern. Now, now.” He raised his hands as if to quiet the room of campers, none of whom had made a sound. “This is exactly why we have the fence in the first place.”

The fence wasn’t really designed to keep things out. Spooky had seen the exposed bars and chain-link before her parents brought her through the gates. The plastic sheeting that made it impossible to climb only ran along the inside.


  1. This seems like such an interesting premise. However, I wasn't necessarily grabbed by your first two paragraphs and it's choppy sentences. Your last paragraph, however, would make a great first paragraph. "The fence wasn't really designed to keep things out," immediately implies that your MC is locked in somewhere and pulls the reader in. Just a suggestion, but otherwise I'm intrigued!

  2. The pitch is interesting, I think there’s a “will” missing in the last sentence. I would have liked to know what the deal was in order to appreciate the stakes. If she agreed to eat a carrot, that’s different than say becoming a moose riding champion or framing another delinquent from the camp for a bank heist if that makes sense. But I love the general “Holes” vibe with the delinquent summer camp and mixing in fantasy elements makes it even better.

    I don’t think the concept of passing a note is dated enough to warrant recalling a past experience to validate it. More interesting than it being old school is the fact that they don’t have easy access to pens. The gravity of it being the first note she’d received all summer is lost because we don’t know if this is Day 2 or Day 42 or how many days she has left. The animal inside the fence thing confused me. I loved the idea that they are keeping something in, not keeping something out. But if that’s the case, why bother mentioning something getting in? It feels like an excuse to bring up the fence. Also, the “plastic sheeting” was too vague of a description, which made it hard to imagine--are we talking a disposable picnic table cloth, a tarp, or the hard panels that can’t be tampered with?

  3. The tone seems a little more MG than YA? I think I'd have to read on to be sure. But right off the bat, the first two sentence present a problem. It's Spooky's story, but the second sentence seems like it's Luke's POV. Getting some of the five senses involved will make it more engaging and grant more clarity-- Something brushes her elbow, but what does it feel like? Does it startle her? How does she know Luke is putting a note, specifically, in her hand if this is the first time it's happened all summer? Just a little more description will make the scene a lot more interesting. Good luck! :)

  4. I feel like the first 250 words had a major missed opportunity. She gets passed a note. Okay, my interest is piqued. But nearly 250 words later, we still don't know what's on the note. She talks about the note but doesn't mention what's on it, then the narrations shifts the focus completely to what's happening around her.

    Depending on what the note says, you could really pull the audience in there.

    As to the pitch, it sounds very grand and dramatic, but I think a personal connection to Spooky is missing. For example, what exactly is "everything she's ever wanted"? All I know is she wants to get out of camp. Any desires or interests she has beyond that, I have no idea.

    Hope this is helpful! Good luck!

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